As a TA, I watched students tune out a brilliant professor because they were too busy copying down the PowerPoint slides… despite these being made available online before every class. It was astonishing, especially because she was so interesting. As teachers and professors we are presenting material to students that we expect them to learn and retain, but how often do they actually learn when we present to them in class?
This is one reason I tried to work projects and case studies into my lectures. In other words, they would investigate primary sources in between periods of hearing me talk. I would occasionally use video for this, as well. But, I recently came across a short video via one of my favorite websites, www.brainpickings.org, about what presenters need to know about people: LISTEN UP, EDUCATORS! This is great advice for improving the class time we spend gabbing at the front of the classroom. In my most successful classes, I can look back and see that these points were contributed significantly to an excellent rapport with my students and engagement on their part.
If you click on the link above, you can see the video at the Brainpickings site, but here it is with quick bullet points, below:
- People learn best in 20-minute chunks. There must be a reason for the successful TED-sized talk format.
- Multiple sensory channels compete. During a talk, you engage both the auditory and visual channels — because we’re visual creatures and the visual channel trumps the auditory, make sure your slides don’t require people to read much or otherwise distract from the talk.
- What you say is only one part of your presentation. Paralinguistics explores how information is communicated beyond words — be aware the audience is responding to your body language and tone. Record yourself presenting to get a feel for those and adjust accordingly.
- If you want people to act, you have to call them to action. At the end of your presentation, be very specific about exactly what you would like your audience to do.
- People imitate your emotions and feel your feelings. If you’re passionate about your topic, this excitement will be contagious for the audience. Don’t hold back.
I was really pleased with another book from the same series which this video is promoting, 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People, so I would hold high expectations for the 100 Things Every Presenter Needs to Know About People. Add it to your summer reading list–you may use it to improve your teaching and you may figure out what it is that has been hiding behind some of your greatest successes!